A research group from IMDEA Materials has developed a flexible silicon that will revolutionize electric vehicles

The batteries produced with this new material will make it possible to lighten the vehicles, increase the distance they can travel and reduce charging time.

A group of researchers from the IMDEA Materials Institute in Madrid, led by Juan José Vilatela, has developed flexible silicon in sheets, a material of particular relevance to the manufacturing of batteries. Silicon is the key element when it comes to the future of batteries. It plays a fundamental role in the electrification of transport and is identified as a critical material in most roadmaps for renewable energies. What’s more, it has a fundamental strategic advantage: silicon is the most abundant material on the Earth’s surface.

In its natural state, silicon is brittle, which makes it extremely difficult to use in energy storage. The IMDEA Materials group has achieved a method to produce flexible silicon sheets; a kind of silicon fabric that is fully suitable for the manufacturing of batteries. The flexible silicon sheets developed by the scientists of the Madrid Institute are produced using a method that is more efficient and scalable.

The incorporation of flexible silicon in the production of batteries will reduce manufacturing costs due to the elimination of manufacturing stages in the production process. The resulting materials are likely to increase battery durability, IMDEA Materials’ flexible silicon will allow for the production of much more efficient batteries. “The objective”, explains Juan José Vilatela “is to charge vehicle batteries in the shortest possible time possible and to maximise the range of distance the vehicles can travel before the battery needs to be recharged. The flexible silicon that we have developed stores almost ten times more energy than the materials currently used in the manufacturing of battery anodes.” When flexible silicon batteries are implemented, the researchers predict that electric vehicles’ travel range will be at least double their current range.

The flexible silicon produced by the IMDEA Materials group is also of particular relevance to Europe, since the EU is behind other regions such as the United States in silicon technology. At present, European companies in strategic sectors, such as defense or aerospace, need to buy these technologies from third parties. This interest for the European Union is evident in the allocation of a grant from the European Commission aimed at accelerating the commercialization of this new technology. Projects such as the one awarded to the IMDEA Materials group, an ERC PoC Grant, are intended exclusively to accelerate the industrial development of the most ground-breaking and strategic projects.

The article describing the production method of flexible silicon sheets has been published in the Materials Horizons journal, the most important in the field of Materials Science published by the Royal Society of Chemistry of the United Kingdom. Materials Horizons has chosen this article to include, after its publication in the regular edition of the journal, in a special issue on emerging researchers. Click on this link to consult the publication.